Others’ views I value

High Flight

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Today, remembering a poem that touched me back in my aviating days, I was even more moved to learn that the author, John Gillespie Magee, composed it as a 21 year old RAF pilot just months before his death in combat during the early days of WWII.
I am struck by the seeming paradox that we humans are capable of using technology to experience both the sublime and the savage in us all.
May we learn to choose more wisely.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
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I treasure Herman Hesse’s essay “On Trees”

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For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the forces of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals it’s death wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk, in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal tress grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought. I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labour is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts. Trees have long thoughts, long breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

© Herman Hesse.
From Wandering by Herman Hesse. Published by Picador. 1972.

“Word Is Out…stories of some of our lives”

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It was deeply moving, after 30 years, to again watch this pioneering film that documents the lives, then and now, of 26 queer trailblazers. Sometimes shyly, sometimes boldly, they knocked down the closet door…for all, forever.

“Awakening is a shift in consciousness in which thinking and awareness separate.”

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“Instead of being lost in your thinking, when you are awake you recognize yourself as the awareness behind it. Thinking then ceases to be a self-serving autonomous activity that takes possession of you and runs your life. Awareness takes over from thinking. Instead of being in charge of your life, thinking becomes the servant of awareness. Awareness is conscious connection with universal intelligence. Another word for it is Presence: consciousness without thought.”

— Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth ~ Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, p. 259

Beyond words…

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On this Fathers’ Day and Summer Solstice weekend, as we move from the mental airiness of Gemini to the watery depths of Cancer, this aphorism speaks to me:

“Words and thoughts are limited and relative,

while truth is without limits.

Words find their truth in the heart of silence,

and thoughts when they arise from the depths of non-thought.”

Master Taisen Deshimaru

As I approach 65…

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Two friends have sent me the same poem, which resonates deeply at this point in my life:

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

by Derek Walcott

At the epicenter of the epidemic: San Francisco, 1987

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Teaching Yoga to People with HIV/AIDS

This article is archived at Google Books.